Mr Joburg Mayor, shame on you and your fanfare plans

06 October 2017 - 05:45 By The Times Editorial
Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba at Vanin Court in Hillbrow. This building was once owned by the city but it has been hijacked and turned into a slum.
Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba at Vanin Court in Hillbrow. This building was once owned by the city but it has been hijacked and turned into a slum.
Image: Greg Roxburg

Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba with great fanfare announced this week the start of the process to take over hijacked buildings in the inner city. The masterplan is to turn them into affordable-housing properties.

This is all good and well, but when asked what will become of those who will be evicted from these buildings, he offered a staggering reply: "The City of Joburg will take responsibility only for South African citizens." Perhaps he forgot the preamble of our Constitution that says: "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity."

He was vague about where those who are being displaced will now live, before hinting it was actually national government's problem - because the majority of those affected were undocumented foreigners.

The Times decided to visit the site where 200 people were moved to after being evicted from the Shongai Mansions in 2016. Since then, hundreds more people evicted from Fattis Mansions and the Cape York building have settled in dire conditions in tents at the same site, a piece of land hidden away in Turffontein.

Our reporter there found KwaZulu-Natal mother-of-nine Wendy Ndaba, who worked as a cleaner in a hijacked building.

Her current situation is desperate. The living conditions at the Turffontein site are unsafe and squalid. Her family's food had just been stolen and her children were hungry.

Asked whether our photographer could take her picture, a tearful Ndaba declined: "I don't want my family to see how much I am suffering in Joburg."

Does that not hit you in the gut, Mr Joburg Mayor?

Shame on you.

Next time, before you smile for the cameras and announce big plans to build affordable housing, have a proper plan in place first for the displaced citizens of your city.

X